IMAGINE WHAT happens to rap music when English words are mixed line by line with Spanish words and given a Latin beat. The result is what budding Latino superstar Gerardo affectionately calls "Spanglish."
"It relates to both cultures so everyone can understand," said Gerardo, whose Ecuadorian family name is Mejia. "Usually when I'm speaking it's just one or the other. My parents are really into stressing Spanish and speaking the right kind of Spanish. They tell me I shouldn't mess up the language. It's just done for the music."
But for Gerardo, whose sex-filled first single "Rico Suave" streaked up the charts several months ago, all it has taken is a few flashes of his muscular, tanned body to make his point with the dance community, and in particular, the ladies.
Tomorrow he's scheduled to be the third act in a six-group troupe of dance music stars at the Arena for the local stop of the Club MTV tour. Tara Kemp, Color Me Badd, C&C Music Factory, Tony Toni Tone and Bell Biv Devoe are also scheduled to perform.
Since the video for "Rico Suave" aired before Christmas, Gerardo has often been besieged by female fans, who have even resorted to ripping his clothes off on stage.
"You could say they chase me around a bit," he said with a laugh.
But with all of the sexual innuendo injected into his lyrics and his overtures to women in song, what is his real stance on the issue?
"I try to tell people about AIDS and sexual awareness and to take care of their bodies," he said. "I'm careful with my body. I'm not jumping into bed with people I don't know."
Whatever the circumstances offstage, his five-song, 30-minute portion of tonight's show will consist of a DJ, a backing track, a drummer, a percussionist and six dancers.
He had been planning his own tour since late winter, but MTV called during the spring with a better offer.
"From what we heard there wasn't even supposed to be a Club MTV tour this year," said Gerardo, who had a reggae backing band at this time last year, when he labored in virtual anonymity outside of his home in Los Angeles.
"I wasn't even thinking about it, but they put this whole package together at the last minute and I had to scramble to get some people together for my show," he said.
Gerardo came to Los Angeles from Ecuador with his family when he was 12 to join his uncles, who were working for a successful accounting firm.
In fact, Gerardo was working as an accountant for his father before his late night forays into the L.A. club scene landed him a record deal.
"He almost killed me," Gerardo told the Los Angeles Times. "He had gotten me a brand-new office. I had a new computer. I had a bad typewriter, the works."
Gerardo eventually promised his father that if he didn't succeed in the first year he would return to the accounting business.
"Always have to keep the parents happy," he said.